Professionally, I have been known as Doctor Frank, since my last name looks too intimidating to pronounce. But for purposes of this blog and in acknowledgement of my avocation, I wish to simply be the Hoosier Wineaux, a Midwesterner who enjoys and has knowledge of wine.
Born and raised in the Calumet region of metropolitan Chicago, my introduction to wine came in 1972 during a naïve trip to California accompanied by a friend who suggested checking out Napa Valley.
I never really had interest in alcoholic beverages during my college years. Little did I suspect how that opportunity would spark my curiosity and kindle a journey of discovery.
Subsequent wine travels have taken me from Yakama Valley, Washington, to the Finger Lakes of upstate New York; the Leelanau Peninsula of northern Michigan to Texas Hill Country; and from Campania, Italy, to Stellenbosch, South Africa.
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I tell people that my interest in wine came from my stomach. Truth is, I like to eat and realized the potential wine had to enhance the dining experience. It’s like adding an additional condiment or layer of flavor to food.
The tongue is mistakenly thought to be responsible for taste when, in fact, the sense of smell accounts for 80 percent of our flavor perception. As anyone with a head cold can attest, food “tastes” different when the sense of smell is altered.
Surprisingly, taste buds on the tongue are limited to identifying sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (the Japanese word for savory).
All other perceptions result from stimulation of receptors in the nasal passageway that is processed by the brain from memory of prior experiences. That is how wine descriptors can include chocolate, cherry, oak or butterscotch, among other possibilities.
In the ’90s, I became “the wine guy” by default for a dinner group that my wife and I enjoyed with four other couples. Beginning in 2001, I began selling wine part-time at the County Road 17 Chalet, which later expanded into responsibility for conducting home, corporate and charity wine tasting events.
More recently, I have been a “Pit Cru” volunteer at the Indy International Wine Competition for the past four years.
Meeting, speaking and tasting with a variety of industry people over the years, including winemakers, educators, sales representatives and importers, has broadened my general understanding of wine.
Thousands of sips later, I can claim considerable experience from which to continue my journey and share my impressions of an activity and industry that ultimately is about an agricultural product that has significantly influenced culture and life for millennia.